News / USA

Honeybees Still Disappearing in the US

Beekeepers and scientist acknowledge the decline of Honeybees in US
Beekeepers and scientist acknowledge the decline of Honeybees in US

Honeybees, which are very important to agriculture, continue to disappear at alarming rates in the United States. And the cause of this disappearance is still elusive. While at least one recent study seems to point to pesticides as the problem, the US Agriculture Department has also found parasites causing general weakness among bee colonies. 

Beekeepers around the country are struggling to keep their honeybees alive.  According to the US Department of Agriculture the losses around the country are between 50 and 90 percent.

"Our losses for the last couple of years have averaged better than 60 percent a year," David Hackenberg stated. He is one of the largest beekeepers on the East Coast of the United States. He has worked with bees for the last 48 years. He blames the disappearance of his bees on pesticides.

"The farmers, the horticulture people, the gardeners are pouring out all kinds of chemicals out here on the field, going in our soil and the stuff is coming back up in the plants," he said. "The unfortunate thing about this is that if this stuff is getting in the plants is also getting in the food."

Hackenberg says the problem is especially evident in the wax the bees produce. "The wax absorbs most of the stuff.  The wax is just full of pesticides," he said.

During the winter Hackenberg moves most of his bees to Florida.  As the spring comes in, he starts traveling north towards Pennsylvania with the bees, renting them to farmers, for weeks at a time, to pollinate all types of crops.  About a third of the U.S. food supply, in fact, comes from crops that are pollinated by insects. "Our bees move about 12,000 miles (19,000 kilometers) a year on the back of a truck," he explained.

Bees fly free during the day and then return to their hive at night.  That is when Hackenberg packs them back into the trucks and moves on to the next crop.

The mysterious disappearance of bees began about seven years ago in the U.S. and Europe.  Eventually the phenomenon was labeled "colony collapse disorder," or "CCD."  But while they now have a name for it, scientists still do not have a clear explanation for the problem.


At the U.S. Agriculture Department's bee research lab in Maryland, Jeff Pettis is the research leader.

"We think there is some group of interaction between things like poor nutrition, pesticide exposure and pathogens.  So I would point to those three things as adding enough stress to the colony that then that colony is susceptible to the pathogens to the viruses and bacteria."

Pennsylvania State University recently released the results of a large study on honeybees.  It found an average of six different pesticides in the honey, wax and dead bees that were studied.  Some samples had more than 80.  Pettis participated in the research. "What we found was that there were a variety of pesticides that were in the pollen, the wax and the bees themselves," he says, "so there was a lot of exposure."

While most studies are designed to show the effects of one pesticide at a time, research into combinations of pesticides is just beginning.

"Penn State, the lab here, several labs around the country are beginning to combine different pesticides together and look at the synergy of it as it goes on," Pettis said.

Pettis says no research has yet shown enough evidence to declare pesticides as the only reason the bees are disappearing.  He says the bee colonies that have collapsed show high disease levels, but scientists have not been able to explain how that happens. "The only clear signal that we see is that when the bees die they have high levels of viruses and pathogens," he explained.

Research indicates that poor nutrition among bees is mostly due to large fields of single crops, which leave the bees without enough variety in their diet. There are other theories as well, but all of them seem to point in the same direction as David Hackenberg's outlook:

"I don't think the future is good," Hackenberg says, "It's going to take a long time to clean up our environment.  We contaminated our environment to the point that is going to take a long time to reverse it."

Report narrated by Elizabeth Lee

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid